The Human Fossil Record

We’ve been working through Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution – a book that describes a way to move beyond the creation and evolutions debates. We will continue with this book next week, but classes have started, and preparation has consumed my time, so today I would like to point to a series of posts on the BioLogos blog.

One of the biggest obstacles to acceptance of evolutionary creation comes not from an old earth, evolution of animals, or death before the fall, but from the idea of human evolution – that human beings developed in common descent with other animals. The evidence for human common descent is compelling – both the genetic evidence and the fossil evidence – but it is hard to explain to the average Christian or the average pastor.  The church needs Christians with the expertise in science and the ability and willingness to present the evidence for an educated lay audience. For this reason I was happy to see the continuing series of posts at BioLogos by James Kidder who holds a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Tennessee. Part One of his series looks at the issue of  transitional fossils. The figure above gives a timeline of fossil evidence (it is readable in the original post).

Quoting just the beginning of Kidder’s post:

Some time ago, the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin commented on the human origins exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, suggesting that palaeoanthropologists use evolutionary theory to describe the progression of the human lineage even when they don’t have transitional fossils with which to work. He writes:

What’s ironic, however, is that if you ask the question How Do We Know Humans Evolved? the answer you’re given is, “Fossils like the ones shown in our Human Fossils Gallery provide evidence that modern humans evolved from earlier humans.” So whether you find fossils or you don’t, that’s evidence for evolution.

Indeed, it has become an article of faith for those espousing both the young earth creation (hereafter YEC) model and many who hold to the intelligent design model that transitional fossils do not exist and therefore evolution has not taken place. Support for this position usually entails attacking the weak areas of the fossil record, where burial processes have left us little with which to work, or the creation of straw men arguments in which transitional fossils are defined in such a way that none could ever be found. Often this centers on the concept of “missing link,” a term that is habitually used in the popular press and young earth creation and intelligent design literature when referring to fossil remains but which has little to no meaning for biologists or palaeontologists.

Dr. Kidder goes on to explain why “missing link” is a misnomer, and to describe some of the evidence for human evolution as exhibited in the fossil record. Part Two, posted yesterday, continues the discussion looking at the origin of bipedality, and we can look forward to more posts to come.

Groups like Answers in Genesis and other YEC proponents have done a fairly good job of presenting a package of arguments to debunk evolution. These arguments, while persuasive to a lay audience in the church, do not hold up to scientific scrutiny by experts, including evangelical Christian experts. They cause problems for many Christian students who are confronted by the strength of the scientific evidence in college and university classes.  Today I’d like to pose a simple question.

What is needed to counter the misrepresentation of the scientific arguments for evolution? What kinds of resources do we need for pastors and for the local church?

What kind of evidence or presentation is convincing and why?

It you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you have comments please visit The Human Fossil Record at Jesus Creed

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